Thomas Jonathan Jackson was born in Clarksville, Virginia, USA, on January 21, 1824.
At the age of 18 he entered West Point Academy to train for a future military career. And it was here a fellow cadet witnessed to him concerning his need of a Saviour. The word spoken bore fruit. “He immediately became a man of the Bible,” says one biographer.
Jackson saw military action with the United States Army in the Mexican War, in which he was promoted to Major, but he then resigned to enter academia.
There also followed 10 years of “brilliant teaching” in his role of professor at Virginia’s Military Academy. His eccentricities earned him two nicknames from his cadet students, “Tom Fool Jackson” and “Old Blue Light”.
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At the age of 27 he joined the Lexington Presbyterian Church (22 November, 1851). Two years later he married Eleanor Junkin … who died 14 months later. And in 1857 he wed again, to Mary Morrison from South Carolina.
When Virginia seceded from the American Union led to the outbreak of the American Civil War, Jackson left home to fight for the Southern cause. His first command was over the military cadets he had been training. It was from his very first action, at Harpers Ferry, that he was given the nickname “Stonewall Jackson”. He was soon promoted to Lieutenant General.
Next to Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson is the most revered of all Confederate commanders of the Civil War.
Letters to his wife from the battlefield reveal his steadfastness to his God. “While we were near Winchester, it pleased our ever merciful Heavenly Father to visit my command with the rich outpouring of His Holy Spirit,” he wrote on 5 December, 1862. “There were probably more than 100 (soldiers) enquiring concerning the way of life…”
One delightful story tells “his men saw him stumbling and falling over rocks and trees. They almost thought he had had too much to drink. That was not the problem. He was praying with his eyes closed as he walked” (Christian History, Issue 33).
Jackson’s most effective campaign came just before his death, at the Battle of Chancellorville, where he led his men around the Union flank to gain a decisive victory. That night, as he reconnoitred the situation he was shot at by some of his own men, who thought he and his escort were enemy soldiers.
Initially his left arm was amputated, and a week later he died of pneumonia which had set in.
Jackson regretted ever having to fight a battle on the Lord’s Day, and he lost his last earthly battle, with death, on Sunday, May 10, 1863, only 39 years old.
Robert E Lee is quoted as saying, “Jackson lost his left arm, but I lost my right arm”.
When the Confederate soldiers went into battle the next day their battle cry was “Remember Jackson!”
Jackson’s final words as he drifted off to death were, “Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees . . .”
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This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com